Is Discussing an Unanswerable Question a Good Idea?

philosophy-discussionYesterday on Facebook my friend posted a philosophical question about the nature of reality and I replied with a long post. He responded this morning with another interesting question. Is it worth discussing at all?

It’s a good question. The original query is largely unanswerable. Yes, we might be living in the Matrix but there is no empirical way to determine if this is true. Perhaps we are living in the Matrix or some other construct. On the other hand, maybe the evidence we gather with our senses and repeated trials is real. Arguments can be made endlessly but, in the end, neither side can prove their point.

So why bother with the argument, or dialectic, my friend asks?

Why indeed.

If the question cannot be answered, isn’t it a waste of time and energy to discuss it at all? Shouldn’t we move on to something more productive?

This time there is an answer to the question and one that is emphatically true. Yes. We not only should, but essentially must, have such debates. This despite the fact we are aware there is no final answer.

The first reason such debates are useful is because they exercise your mind in the same way a physical workout exercises your body. Riding a stationary bike, lifting weights, participating in a yoga class; all these things make you stronger and better in any number of ways. I’ll not diverge into a discussion of cardiovascular health, I think we can all accept the idea that physical exercise is a good thing.

This training of the mind helps you analyze situation through critical thinking and contributes greatly to your ability to find resolutions. In this case there isn’t one, but frequently in life when presented with a problem, there is a correct solution. It is imperative to think through any obstacles and derive a resolution. This behavior will help you navigate life successfully.

Another reason to engage in such civil discourse is to practice having disagreements without resorting to name calling and general rudeness. People are going to disagree with you on a fairly regular basis. We see all too frequently today an immediate and angry descent into attack dialog. Anyone who dares disagree with me on any point is the enemy. They must be ridiculed and destroyed! This sort of behavior is being exhibited virtually everywhere you look, and it is leading to unthinkable divisions in this nation and the world as a whole. When people can no longer disagree with civility, we are in trouble.

Another reason to have such discourse is that it teaches you to listen to ideas that you might not have considered. When we just shout at each other, there is no learning going on. When we engage in the back and forth of discussion we sometimes learn new things, we sometimes change our opinion, and that’s a good thing. New information doesn’t always change an opinion but sometimes it does. It’s important to get into the habit of listening to those who oppose your point of view, not just to avoid angry confrontation, but to actually increase your own understanding of the situation.

The answer to my friend’s question is simple. Yes. Have the discussion. And maybe a tumbler of Booker’s bourbon while you’re at it.

Tom Liberman

Privacy in Browsing History Government v Capitalism

internet-browsing-privacyPeople are up in arms because Congress granted Internet Service Providers the ability to sell the browsing history of users. Well, that’s not exactly what happened. In 2016 the Federal Communication Commission began enforcing a rule preventing ISPs from selling such information. Congress just repealed that rule.

The major ISPs have now come out with a statement saying they will never do so.

Here we have in brilliant technicolor the problem with government regulations. Anything the government can do, they can undo with the swipe of pen. Any law they pass to support one thing, can oppose that same thing when an ideologically different party takes power. When we give government the power to restrict an ISP from selling our browsing history we implicitly give them the power to allow it.

Why, you might ask, have the major ISPs taken the unusual step of vowing never to do so? Because of capitalism. If their customers find out they are selling browsing history they might well find themselves short of customers. Oh, but wait, nobody has much of a choice in ISPs because local government puts up enormous and expensive barriers to companies that want to bring you internet service.

Cable companies pay huge amounts in bribes, I mean fees, in order to service a community. Now things are changing. Wireless Internet Access companies are available in many places but the system is still horribly monopolistic.

Imagine if local governments weren’t involved at all and any capitalist could start up an ISP to compete for your dollars. How long do you think the ones that sell your browsing history would last in a truly competitive market?

The only reason the big ISPs are vowing not to sell your information is because of competition, not government regulations.

Competition brings enormous benefits to consumers in a way government regulation never can. Government regulations are often the reason companies can engage in anti-consumer activity, they stifle competition. Without competition there is nowhere else to go. With competition a company that angers its customers just won’t survive.

That’s capitalism.

The more the government does to protect us, the worse off we are.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
April 2017 Release: For the Gray

Chevy Chase, Community, Hate, and Success

community_paintball_explosionI was browsing through some of the glorious paintball clips of the television show Community on YouTube when I came across this video. It reminded me one of the show’s stars, Chevy Chase, hated being on the show and most of the cast and creator were not particular fond of him.

If Chase hated being on the show and most of the people he worked with didn’t like him, how was the show so hysterically funny? How was Chase so good? How did the other actors create comedy gold in scenes with him? How did the show runner produce hilarious episodes one after the other?

In team sports there is something called chemistry. This is how the players and coaches interact with one another. It is universally considered a benefit when everyone gets along. When the culture of the team is good. But perhaps the reality is different. At least that’s what I’m thinking. Maybe liking each other isn’t all that important to success. Maybe working with talented people you hate can be and is far more of an indicator of success than so-called team chemistry.

As an extreme example; it’s pretty clear no matter how much the other players on the St. Louis Cardinals might like me as a person, I would be an anchor on the team, what with me striking out nine out of ten plate appearance (ok, 99 out of 100).

Is it pleasant to be around those we like? To spend time in the company of those we enjoy? Yes. Why, yes, it is. I enjoy life more when I’m surrounded by people whose company I enjoy. The question becomes, is it an element of success? It seems like it should be an obvious answer. If the team, be it sports or business, likes one another they should be happier and thus more willing to perform excellently. Yet, is it?

Does happiness engender success? These are the question managers must ask themselves while building their teams. Is this new person we’re adding going to improve the culture? Is this new person we’re adding going to improve our chances of succeeding at the project?

Who is more important? Douchebag super-talent or sweet person average talent?

Obviously we’d love both, but what I’m asking is which takes priority. You want the job done. You are the manager. What’s your choice? The more I think about it, the more I come to the conclusion that success is more related to talent than chemistry. Much more. What do you think?

The poll question is a bit black and white and I understand there are nuances.

If you were building a team which would you place in higher esteem?

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Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
April 2017 Release: For the Gray

What the word Fart has to Say about Your Integrity

rempel-may-fartThere’s a silly news story making the rounds that gives me an opportunity to ask you a question, so I’m going to do it.

Politician Michelle Rempel said the word “fart” in regards to how the province of Alberta was being treated by the Canadian Parliament. The leader of the opposition party, Elizabeth May, thought the word lacked decorum and called out Rempel. A war of words ensued.

What I want to examine is the idea that the word itself has no meaning at all to most people. It is the person who says it. Let’s pretend you have no idea what political parties Rempel and May represent. You simply know Rempel said the word fart in a place where normally one uses decorum.

I want you to think introspectively about yourself and your past behavior when answering this poll. Don’t immediately answer. Think about it. Then give me an answer.

Would your Comment about this Story Change based on Political Party?

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It’s my opinion that the vast majority of people are totally influenced by party affiliation. Which side they take on this issue has nothing to do with the word itself but the party affiliation of the person who said it. I’m also of the opinion that most people who answer this poll will deny that. They will answer that party affiliation has nothing to do with their answer.

Thus, I guess I’m saying most people I know will lie in order to support their political agenda. And they will do it with little awareness they are lying. They will tell their lie and believe they are telling the truth. Worse even than the means justify the ends. Lying supports the party I like and therefore it is the truth.

It’s my opinion this is where we are as a country, not just in Canada.

Finally I will discuss my opinion on the controversy although I hope you answer the poll before reading.

Rempel was in violation of simple decorum but not enormously, it was an impassioned speech. May was out of line in publically attacking Rempel. She should have simply pulled her aside quietly and suggested that such language is probably not best in parliament. Perhaps Rempel might have stood up the next day and explained that her passion carried her away and that she is sorry for her choice of words if not for the message. Maybe even have thanked May for pointing it out. Then May might have reciprocated explaining that she understood and heard Rempel’s message. That they might try to work together to solve the problem.

But then again, I’m just a silly dreamer who thinks we are headed toward Utopia.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
Next Release: For the Gray

Pokemon Go Shaming and Fear

pokemon-go-memeAs if you didn’t already know, a game called Pokemon Go has become hugely popular in the last week.

Along with its popularity I’ve seen a huge spike of news stories and comments in social media attacking the game and its players. The question I want to try and examine today is why is there all this hate and fear?

The object of Pokemon Go is to physically wander around in public places and collect virtual Pokemon. These are little creatures that do battle with one another. A player who has stronger Pokemon can defeat players with weaker Pokemon. Thus it becomes necessary to collect ever stronger Pokemon to win battles. Players can join teams where groups battle one another. What makes Pokemon Go different is that you have to venture out into the physical world to find and collect your combatants. And people are doing it by the millions.

People are getting out of their houses and wandering the world at strange hours and visiting places they might not have visited before. They are getting exercise they would not normally get. They are meeting strangers whom they would not normally meet. Social boundaries are crumbling as people who would never so much as give each other the time of day because of their jobs, race, religion, sexual orientation, or physical locations are now meeting and finding common ground.

That, my devoted readers, is causing abject fear in the establishment. I know it sounds like I’m making way too much out of this but the plethora of news stories about the dangers of playing Pokemon and the social shaming I’m seeing everywhere must have an explanation. People of all religions, colors, nationalities, ages, sexes, and sexual orientations are finding out they have something in common besides our traditional way of separating ourselves. They enjoy playing the same game.

And, by golly, that’s with whom we should be associating! We should hang out with the people who love the same things we love regardless of all those other factors. Factors which are often merely the circumstances of our birth.

Look at that forty year old, white computer programmer sitting on the bench with those two young black men in baggy trousers teaching the police officer how to play. (That’s one of the few positive stories on Pokemon Go I’ve seen). You’re fooling yourself if you think images like that don’t frighten the authorities. What would the world be like if people with the same interests hung out with each other and didn’t worry about what everyone else was doing?

What would happen to nations? To boundaries? To government?

I know, I know, I’m making way too much out of this. Still, my friends, go play Pokemon Go and make some friends you otherwise would never have met.

Be afraid, authority. Change is coming and it comes from unexpected sources.

Is Pokemon Go just a game or something more?

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Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
Next Release: For the Gray

Heineken – Where have all the Good Men Gone?

drunk-guyI’ve been watching a Heineken commercial for a few months now and it’s been bothering me since the first time I saw it.

Basically it is a little montage of women walking out on their incoherently drunk male companions from a variety of locations. They sing of their lament that there are no more good men. Eventually one handsome fellow pushes away a beer and we know that the moderate drinker is the hero for whom they’ve all been looking.

Call me thin-skinned. Call me political correct. By golly I’m offended. I’m not offended to the point where I’m going to boycott Heineken (which I don’t drink anyway, so boycott threat pointless). I’m not asking other people to stop drinking it. I’m not asking for the ad to be pulled. I’m just saying, gosh, it’s offensive. I’m a guy. I drink. I’ve been drunk.

Where have all the good men gone?

What if the commercial asked where have all the good women gone and show trampy looking girls making out with guys in the ally with liquor bottles scattered everywhere? Where have all the good girls gone? Would there be outrage?

Anyway, not that big a deal. Just a quick, informal poll. Let me know what you think.

Is the ad offensive to men or am I overreacting?

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Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition
Next Release: The Gray Horn

Newest Prime Number Stupid Comment of the Week

Newest-PrimeAnd with a triumphant return we have my newest Stupid Comment of the Week!

There was an interesting article about how software using computer idle time is performing mathematical calculations to find prime numbers. Such software found the largest one yet back in September but news of it is being spread far and wide through the internet.

Upon reading this story a fellow named Michael Mulranen decided to post his mathematical acumen for the world to see with his comment as displayed in the image above.

Michael then went on to defend the argument with more comments! First he attacks someone who dared point out his logic was idiotic by commenting on their spelling. Then he defends his original argument.

More-prime-defenseFinally he attacks another person who told him his argument was wrong.

Congratulations, Michael. You are my Stupid Commenter of the Week!

Oh, and of course, Prime Numbers are by their nature odd numbers. Any odd number to which five is added will be an even number and therefore not prime. This was pointed out to Michael but he doesn’t want to listen.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition
Next Release: The Gray Horn



Truth or Compassion?

truth-or-liesThis weekend my step-mother missed a step resulting in a badly and gruesomely broken leg. As she lay there writhing in agony she said, “I think I my have broken my leg”.

I responded, “No, you broke your leg.”

Not exactly Mr. Compassion and Kindness. The incident is a window into me to some degree but it brought to my mind a question. Is it better to be brutally honest or skirt around honesty with compassion? I recall another incident while visiting the great state of Alaska where my young niece, perhaps ten or eleven at the time, and me were staying in a cabin and she asked me what would happen if a bear came in the windows. The Denali guides had given us a lesson on what to do if a bear attacks earlier in the day. I responded, “It would kill us.”

Tess was not particularly happy with my response, as might be expected.

Are we better off hearing the awful truth at all times or is it better to soften the blow occasionally?

In the case of my step-mother it was quite clear her leg was broken, she knew it as well as did I. One couldn’t come to any other conclusion. It was going to require an ambulance, a stay in the hospital, and likely surgery. There was nothing to do about it so perhaps I could have said something a little softer, perhaps, “It does look that way but you never know”. Would that have been a better answer at the time? I think it’s the answer a lot of people who actually have a heart might give, but my black and little used blood pumping organ doesn’t seem capable of such.

Likewise with my niece I could have easily said something like, “I’ll protect you.” It would have been true to some degree as I would have tried to protect her but the reality makes almost no difference as a bear was not going to break into the cabin in any case. Giving a softer answer would have reassured her and probably allowed her a more restful evening.

I’m not really asking if my answers were wrong or right in both cases but examining a more philosophic question. When the truth is unhelpful and won’t change anything is it better to lie a little bit?

I seem to find it almost impossible to lie in situations like that. I’m sure it has to do with my social awkwardness and likely autistic spectrum nature but it makes me wonder if I might have more friends if I was a little less direct, a bit less literal.

Oh well, as Popeye was want to say, “I ams what I ams.”

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition
Next Release: The Gray Horn

What to do with a Fraud like Shemitah?

shemitah-idiocyI belong to a Libertarian website where a healthy gathering of free thinkers get to express their thoughts. Recently a fellow named Jeff Berwick has been writing any number of blogs about a thing called Shemitah.

The posts are largely a series of dire predictions about economic collapse and World War III as they relate to a little observed Jewish holiday.

Those that promulgate the stories are scam artists hoping to scare gullible people and extract money from them. I’m not going to waste time talking about how stupid are the scams or how vile are those using fear to steal from people. What I want to talk about is the need for my Libertarian website to continue to allow them to be posted.

The posts are filled with half-truths, exaggerations, and outright lies. Yet the powers that be allow the author to continue to post despite a criminal track record. Why? Because we’re Libertarians. We’re Anarchists. We’re Free Thinkers.

There must be room in such a group for such sleazy scam artists. There must be room for vile racists. There must be room for even those who promote a large and powerful central authority. We embrace opposition, we don’t quash it. It is not the nature of free thinkers to refuse ideas, even the incredibly stupid and intentionally misleading.

It is my decision on whether or not to believe the nonsense posted by Berwick. I’m free to post comments on his idiotic blogs, and rest assured, I do. But I’m not free to order his lunacy removed from the site.

I trust my fellow Free Thinkers not to be fooled by his idiocy. In some ways I welcome his moronic posts because it reminds the Anarchists of our group that just because something is stupid doesn’t mean people won’t do it. That’s why I’m a Libertarian, not an Anarchist. Ha, I say. Look at Shemitah and tell me people won’t do stupid and self-destructive things.

I’m for limited government, not no government because of people like Berwick. Idiots who will kill me and take my money even though in the end they will lose. He’s an idiot and morons do stupid things. Unfortunately, sometimes the non-morons are hurt be these actions.

So I smile when I see yet another Shemitah post. Post away, moron. In a group of Free Thinkers you represent no threat at all, just a reminder.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition
Next Release: The Gray Horn

Is Shaving Your Legs a Double Standard?

Suzannah WeissThanks to my Facebook friends I’ve been made aware of a story about women shaving their legs in the news. It’s really about one woman not shaving her legs and she uses the argument that women shaving their legs is a double standard.

Suzannah Weiss wrote the piece for Yahoo! Beauty and seems to think a couple of things. That women shaving their legs when men don’t is a double standard. Also that women largely shave their legs to please men. She mentions that some women shave their legs because they like the look and they should be able to make that choice without judgement.

I suppose Weiss is simply trying to be encouraging to other women out there who don’t want to shave their legs. Perhaps she is trying to shame men who prefer smooth legs on women. I can’t speak to her motivation but the idea that it is somehow a double standard seems wrong to me. If a woman shaving her legs is a double standard then so too must be a man wearing a tie, a woman in high heels, a man who shaves his face, either sex who shaves their genitalia.

Weiss then goes on to explain that a great barometer of a man’s respect for a woman is if he thinks a woman is obligated to look pleasing to him. If a man expects a woman to look nice for him, apparently he is a bad fellow. Likewise it seems that it’s at least a negative thing for a woman to want to look pleasing for a man. If she wants to do it for herself, that’s fine. But wanting to look nice for a man? No good.

I’m a Libertarian. I believe we should always do what’s in our best self-interest. But this doesn’t mean we should be isolated. What is often in our self-interest is doing things that are pleasing to those around us. This is how we form friendships, relationships, and manage to exist in society.

One thing I noticed in the picture to the article Weiss is wearing a flower in her hair. Did she do that to please herself? Could not someone argue using her exact same points that wearing a flower in her hair is misguided attempt to be pretty to those around her? That men don’t wear flowers in their hair. Are flowers in the hair a double standard? Are men who like women with flowers in their hair somehow worse men? Are women who put flowers in their hair to please men wrong to do so?

If a woman wants to shave her legs to please a man, to please herself, or because she’s a competitive swimmer, more power to her. If she doesn’t want to, for whatever reason, fine again. If men like shaved legs on a woman, good for them. If they don’t, fine and dandy.

For purposes of full disclosure, I love smooth legs on a woman.

Tom Liberman

Charleston Church Murders – Completely Fathomable

charleston-church-shootingIn watching coverage of the Charleston church murders I’ve heard any number of talking heads, sheriffs, and law enforcement officials talk about how “unfathomable” was such a thing. It’s a lot of things. Heinous. Sick. Vile. Insane. To name a few. But it’s hardly unfathomable.

I grew up in a racially mixed neighborhood. I’m college educated. I’m white. I’ve spent the majority of my life around people in the same social class as me.

I cannot tell you how many times acquaintances, friends of friends, and even friends have espoused ideas exactly like that of Dylann Roof. I’ve had people say directly to me that Hitler had the right idea, wrong group. That killing all the blacks in the United States wouldn’t take long, that someone just had to get it started. I’ve had people tell me all gays should be executed, that we should kill all the Muslims. I’ve heard sentiments like this from people who go to church, who are teachers, upstanding members of society, and all too frequently.

The thing that bothers me is that the people who are saying it’s “unfathomable”, that they “can’t understand it”, that it’s “beyond belief” are the one’s who probably have heard such sentiments more often than have I.

The talking heads and law enforcement people who stand up there in front of microphones expressing this “disbelief” are the very same people who hear similar ideas all the time in their weekly poker game, on their fishing expeditions, on the golf course, and even in their homes.

None of the people I’ve heard express such ideas has reached such an insane point in their lives that they carried out such thoughts but I have no doubt it is within them. That under the right circumstances they would do it.

What I would respect from law enforcement officials and the talking heads is if they told the truth. That such ideas are fathomed all the time. That they’ve heard their friends say such things. That in the future they will stand up and denounce friends that express such ideas. That such horrors are completely fathomable and that anyone who expresses such ideas must be told firmly and immediately that they are insane.

That would be news worth watching.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition

Why Charter Purchasing Time Warner is a Travesty

Charter-Time-WarnerFor years Charter Communications was the only way I could get internet service. The company was founded here in St. Louis and I had many dealings with them. I’m not a fan. I won’t go into details but the only thing that rivals the stories I have to tell are those I read from Comcast customers.

They are now the fourth largest cable operator in the United States and poised to become even larger with the purchase of Time Warner Cable. I cannot tell you how much this bothers me. It is an example of everything that is wrong with our capitalistic system here in the United States. My personal hate of Charter aside it is a travesty of what true capitalism is all about.

What happened is that Charter made many acquisitions in 1999 as it attempted to grow. These proved disastrous in the long run as they created an enormous amount of debt which eventually overwhelmed the company in 2009. If the economic system in which we live was truly capitalistic what would have happened is that Charter’s competitors and new companies would have purchased the equipment and hired the people away from the company as it succumbed to its mountain of debt. These would have been the well-run cable providers and aggressive new entries into the field. It’s not what happened.

What happened is Charter filed for bankruptcy and avoided paying over $8 billion in debts and then continued to operate at a huge competitive advantage over its rivals. With this massive debt erased by the wave of a judge’s magic wand they were instantly able to swamp rivals and become a leader in the industry, all thanks to their complete mismanagement. Yeah!

This is the business model in the United States now. Failure just means you don’t have to pay your bills so you can grow more. If you buy enough Congressmen you’ll get laws passed so you succeed no matter what your business model. It’s a plan that is horrible for consumers and in many ways is destroying our freedom.

We Libertarians believe strongly in rewards going to those who succeed but we also believe that those who mismanage their company must fail. In this country you don’t fail anymore because politicians pass laws to help their cronies. It’s called Crony Capitalism.

We in the United States no longer live in a capitalistic economic system or even a Republic. We live in a Plutocracy where moneyed interests subvert true capitalism.

If you’re a Republican who believes in the market and capitalism I have some advice. Stop voting for Republicans.

If you’re a Democrat and believe in freedom of choice than I have some advice. Stop voting for Democrats.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition

Are Local Police Listening to Your Cell Phone Conversations?

stingray-cell-phone-trackingI just read an article about something called a Stingray Phone Tracker. If you believe in the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution you should read about them as well.

What is a Stingray Phone Tracker? It’s a new weapon in the arsenal of local police that forces your cell phone to connect to it instead of the local cell tower. Law enforcement can then target your phone and download all conversations, text and voice. All this is within the scope of the Fourth Amendment if said use of the Stingray was authorized by a Probable Cause Warrant. The problem is police are using it with what is called Pen Register authorization. This only requires that police state the number is useful in an ongoing investigation and requires far less justification than a Probable Cause Warrant. It’s probable police are using it without any permission whatsoever. Nor are there any rules about how long they can keep the information and with whom the information will be stored.

It is only recently that people are learning about the use of these Stingrays but there is no doubt in my mind that once police have such a weapon available to them, they will use it, and use it frequently. What little information exists suggest as much.

Some local municipalities are now requiring that the use of the Stingray be specified in the request to the judge. It seems clear that police have been obtaining the Pen Register authorization when the judge in question didn’t understand the technology and what could be gleaned from it.

For some time now we’ve been quite concerned about the federal government listening to our conversations but now it seems quite likely that everyone down to your local sheriff has the ability to the do the same and apparently without much supervision or public knowledge.

I suppose there are those out there who trust law enforcement agencies to use this technology properly and there are even those who say if you don’t do anything illegal why would you care if the police listen, record, and store you texts? Well, I care. They have no business doing so and the Constitution of the United States makes that clear.

I’m not opposed to police and investigation but I also strongly believe in the Fourth Amendment and if law enforcement officers want to listen to citizens conversations they must obtain a warrant. Otherwise they are breaking the law and should be prosecuted.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition

$375,000 Fine from FCC for Fleeting Porn

wdbj7-tv-stationA lot of my Libertarian friends are up in arms about the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Net Neutrality these days but I spotted another story that, to my mind, illustrates a more significant problem. The FCC has just laid out a $375,000 fine against a television station in Roanoke, VA for accidentally displaying pornographic material, in the very corner of the screen, for about three seconds during a newscast.

The FCC was created in 1934 for the following purpose:

Regulating interstate and foreign commerce in communication by wire and radio so as to make available, so far as possible, to all the people of the United States a rapid, efficient, nationwide, and worldwide wire and radio communication service with adequate facilities at reasonable charges, for the purpose of the national defense, and for the purpose of securing a more effective execution of this policy by centralizing authority theretofore granted by law to several agencies and by granting additional authority with respect to interstate and foreign commerce in wire and radio communication, there is hereby created a commission to be known as the ‘Federal Communications Commission’, which shall be constituted as hereinafter provided, and which shall execute and enforce the provisions of this Act.

It was amended in 1996 so as to have jurisdiction over the Internet as well.

What’s important here is that the FCC was created to help spread television to the people of the United States. The ability to communicate broadly across the country was seen as advantageous and the FCC was created to try and help in that process. Somewhere along the way it has become an agency which decides what is decent and what is not.

I have an enormous issue with this. If a television station wants to broadcast something they should be able to do it. If an audience doesn’t want to watch it they don’t have to watch it. If a station deceives and shows something lewd when they promised not to do so then they should lose advertisers and viewers who are outraged. It’s not up to the government to protect our precious little ears and eyes from things we don’t want to see. It’s up to us.

But, for the sake of argument, let’s say they do have such a right. Within their own guidelines the base fine for indecency is $7,000. So exactly how and who came up with $375,000? It’s smacks of the arbitrary arrogance of unchecked power. Rules? We make the rules says the unanimous vote of both Republicans and Democrats on the FCC.

When you don’t follow your own rules then there are no rules.

Good luck finding their salaries. I couldn’t. The commissioners and their deputies get feted in fancy dinners paid for by various media companies. This is, of course, but the tip of the graft iceberg. I’m quite certain the commissioners and their families are well-taken care of by the various lobbying groups when it comes to vacations, sporting event tickets, and much more.

The bottom line?

This is the agency we created to help spread communication across our great country. Communication has spread. Their job is done.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition

On Arranged Marriages and Math Tests

Indian Bride Math QueryThere’s an interesting story making the News of the Weird rounds and I think it’s worth discussing. A woman in India walked out of her arranged marriage when she determined that her potential husband did not meet minimal education standards.

For most of us in the Western world it seems impossible that a woman could not know the intelligence of her husband-to-be just a few short minutes before they were to be married but in India many marriages are arranged by the parents of the couple. In these sorts of marriages the parents pick an appropriate spouse and the two do not meet until the ceremony itself. There is no doubt, from a statistical perspective, that such marriages are more likely to succeed than are so-called autonomous marriages. Even in the United States small groups like the Amish practice arranged marriages and they result in far fewer divorces.

Divorce rate comparisons actually play a role in what I want to talk about today. The idea of an arranged marriage is that the parents of the two participants are slightly more level-headed than the bride and groom. Passions do not cloud judgment. The parents look at things like education level, social status, and general compatibility before other factors like physical attraction.

I find myself largely in agreement with the concept of an arranged marriage although the reality of it not so much. I  harbor no illusions that we here in the United States will suddenly embrace arranged marriages but I found the article interesting nevertheless. What I found most intriguing was the bride’s insistence on giving a mathematical test to her husband in the moments before the wedding. It’s clear she was concerned that her parents had been duped by the groom’s family. I was actually a little surprised by the simplicity of the question (What is 15 + 6) although I don’t know the education level of bride. I would have expected, if she were a college graduate, a more difficult question.

It also makes me wonder if perhaps this sort of duplicity is becoming more common in India, as the bride was clearly wary. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that, in the future, more arranged marriages require that the parents meet with the proposed spouse before making any agreements.

What struck me the most was the groom’s family lying on such a scale in order to gain a favorable marriage. It’s clear to me that the woman would likely never have been happy with such an uneducated man. In a culture where arranged marriages are the norm it is the responsibility of the parents to find the most likely match for their child. In this case the groom’s family failed him badly, as did the bride’s although that was because of lies told by their counterparts.

That’s a real shame. If your parents aren’t looking out for you, who will?

No profound revelations here today. I do applaud the bride’s diligence and adherence to Libertarian Principles. Always look out for yourself.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition

Invoiced for Skipping Kids Birthday Party – Alex Nash

Invoice to childs partyThere’s an interesting story making the rounds about a young child who missed a birthday at which his parents confirmed he was attending. The parents of the birthday child then sent an itemized invoice for $24.13 to the Nash’s.

The “experts” are weighing in and I find that I’m not completely in agreement with them. Most sentiment seems to be going towards the parent who was charged for her non-attending child although certainly not all.

It took a while but the email exchanges from the parents are now available, in the story I’ve linked, giving me a better idea of who is blame, mostly.

Young Alex Nash confirmed with his friend that he would be at the party. The party giver confirmed with all attending children’s parents because she needed an exact figure to pay for the ski resort and lunch for each child. Alex, or his parents, decided that he would attend a family function instead and did not show up for the event. Alex’s parents did not call or inform anyone of this decision and claim it was because they had no contact information. Phone numbers were listed on the invitation.

In the exchange of emails Alex’s mother, Tanya, claims later that she didn’t hear Julie (the birthday boy’s mom) trying to stop her at school to talk about the matter but drove off because she had to get her daughter to an after school activity. At one point Tanya claims to not even know what party it was that Alex was supposed to attend. Tanya’s boyfriend apparently went to Julie’s house and told her that she wouldn’t get any money from them. Tanya also tries to argue that it costs more to enter small claims court than the amount supposedly owed.

According to Julie this is not the first such event that Alex has missed.

After reading the various facts of the case I admit that I’m on the invoicing mom’s (Julie) side of this equation. She tried to personally talk with the other party, who drove away claiming not to hear the shouts, before putting together the invoice and sending it Tanya. If you commit to an event which is essentially RSVP you need to go. If you don’t you are costing the other party money. Julie had to lay out money for a child that did not attend. She is not asking for money from the other parents who children did attend. It was her treat for her son’s birthday party.

I even understand the idea of the invoice although it seems impersonal at first glance. It’s actually trying to show the exact amount and how it was incurred rather than just coming up with a figure. After the running away incident I’d have been tempted to do the same.

I’m reminded of a friend’s wedding which I could not attend and I sent an RSVP with attendees of zero. Why? Because someone, probably my mother, taught me properly at some point in life. There are good reasons for RSVP invitations and good manners would have prevented all of this. Manners, they count. Still, I say fork over the money.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition

Rush Limbaugh and the James Bond Controversy

idris-elbaHuge news story hitting the world right now!

There is talk of replacing Daniel Craig as master British Secret Service Agent James Bond. Craig has done a masterful job of bringing back the edge to 007 after the series turned rather comedic with Roger Moore and those who followed. I’ve loved Craig as Bond and I’d be sorry to see him go. So what’s the big controversy?

One of the actors being considered to replace Bond is Idris Elba. Elba is a dashed handsome fellow from England with a good history of movies and television credits to his name. So what’s the problem? Rush Limbaugh thinks Elba should be disqualified from the role because he is a black man. Bond, James Bond, is white you see, at least according to Limbaugh.

I’ll dispel with any suspense about my opinion on this one. The actor who does the best in the audition and who the casting director and the director of the film think will do the job should be awarded the part. Anyone who says anything different doesn’t believe in capitalism. I’m talking to you, Rush. Racism? Maybe. Dirty, filthy, anti-objectivism – absolutely! To suggest that Elba should be disqualified from the role regardless of his ability to play it makes my blood boil! Out, out foul villain. Not in my house.

People argue that Bond is a fictional character and thus open to interpretation. Not relevant. I don’t care if it is a historical character. If a black man kills in an audition for Eleanor Roosevelt he should get the role. If a white man destroys in an effort to depict Ghandi, he should get it. Oh wait, he already did (well, half-white). If a ginger-haired, fair-skinned woman is best as Nelson Mandela then so be it. Anyone who says differently will face my wrath!

This is what Ayn Rand is talking about when she writes Atlas Shrugged. This is a meritocracy. This is the way the world should be. Whoever does something best should be rewarded. Limbaugh shows us here that he doesn’t believe in Rand, he doesn’t believe in capitalism, and that he is certainly not an Objectivist.

I see this so clearly. I know I’m right. I know Limbaugh and anyone who agrees with him is wrong. Dead wrong. That is the kind of thinking that holds back a society. Maybe we shouldn’t hire someone who does the best because they are a devout evangelical. Nope. Maybe we shouldn’t hire a woman to be head of our security department because women aren’t qualified? My advice? Hire the person best qualified under any and all circumstances. It’s your security!

I don’t even know what else to say to make my point. Hire the person best qualified. Period. Anything else is wrong.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition

Of Bananas, Fruits, and Bunches

Dear readers,

I just read this story. You tell me. Real or fake.

Man Faces Felony Charges for Pointing Banana.

For those of you who don’t want to read, I’ll sum up.

A man named Nathan Rolf Channing from the town of Fruitvale, CO went up to a police officer named Joshua Bunch (and one other) and pointed a banana at them. The officers mistook it for a gun and arrested him. He is facing felony charges.

So, I ask you, loyal readers. Is it the Onion? April 1st? Or just an astonishing series of coincidences?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Edge
Purchase The Broken Throne today!
The Black Sphere Coming Soon!


Forgery Equivalent to Original

Mark-Landis-ForgerA friend posted an interesting story on Facebook about how a forger convinced dozens of museums to display his work over the years. One of the first comments on the story suggested that it made no difference to the viewer. If the piece of art was indistinguishable from the original, even to an expert, then the regular museum goer would have the same experience as if it was the original and should be satisfied.

It’s an interesting argument. One of the first analogies that someone offered was the idea that if you went to a concert and saw a band that looked exactly like the authentic members of the band, who played the music the same way; your experience would be no different than if you had seen the actual artists. It’s an appealing idea. That our perception of events equates to reality when, to our senses, the two are identical.

Before I launch into my interpretation of events I’d just like to mention that everyone should read the story itself. The forger in question is a man named Mark Landis who has relatively severe mental problems. He forged the paintings not for financial gain but for a sense of doing something perfectly. He has what is now called Autism Spectrum Disorder and his ability to copy things, both painstakingly and exactingly, is remarkable. He committed no crime and is now available to paint portraits from pictures provided by customers. Anyway, it’s a fascinating story but it doesn’t really have much to do with the point I’m examining today.

So the question becomes if my senses cannot tell the difference between two things are they then the same? Is my experience untainted even though I was given something different than what I expected. I remember being blindfolded and having my nose held while being fed various foods and the ability to distinguish the difference between an onion and an apple was noticeably effected. Naturally in such a case my biological processes would have instantly detected the difference and reacted accordingly. Let’s say we made a brick taste exactly like a steak and tree bark like potatoes. Eating nothing but bricks and tree bark would soon kill me despite my own satisfaction. Clearly our perception of reality is not going to save us there.

Let’s say that we created an illusion of a bridge across a chasm when there was no bridge. Again death ensues. Both of these examples are not truly fair though. When I go to the museum and see a beautiful painting and it touches my emotions is there a difference if the picture was a forgery? In this example my body is not physically effected by the deception. My emotions upon seeing the art are not hurt in the way my body might be from a physical deceit.

What happens if someone you love tells you they reciprocate that feeling when they don’t. Are you undamaged by the deception? When you find out the truth do you have no right to be angry? The love you felt at that moment is not changed in retrospect. You still felt it then. As long as my beloved St. Louis Cardinals are once again in the playoffs let’s take an example from that realm. When Mark McGuire was hitting home runs many people believed he wasn’t using Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDS). Were not their feeling of elation and inspiration at his feats of power betrayed by his later admission? Certainly they way they felt at the time was genuine. That emotion cannot be changed any more than anything in the past can be changed. Once I make a left turn it can never be anything but a left turn. No matter what happens, that’s what happened.

Does this mean that the people shouldn’t feel upset by the fact that McGuire was using PEDs?

Should those people who saw fake art, even though it was indistinguishable from the real artist’s work, have no complaint? Should they not feel they were deceived? Should the memory of the event not be diminished? Certainly the elation of the original moment will always be there but our lives are little more than memories. When something happens, it happens, and then it only lives on in our memories. Subsequent events can and do change that perception.

I can well imagine you’ve figured out my opinion on this subject.

If you were elated and inspired by art that turns out to be a forgery, then you have every right to be upset. Your memory has been tarnished. But also remember the original joy. Remember that you were inspired by that art. That really happened and nothing can change it.

If you pay to see a particular band and someone else plays, providing the exact same experience, you have been deceived but it doesn’t mean you didn’t enjoy the show. You should demand a refund. Someone lied to you. However, don’t let that stop you from remembering how much you loved the concert at the time. Wonderful moments are out there. Seek them out, find them, and relish them. If subsequent events tarnish what you imagined, you have every right to be angry but also try to remember the joy of the original moment. That can never be stolen from you.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Edge
Purchase The Broken Throne today!
See All my Books


How you Appear Changes how People Treat You

professional and unprofessionalI recently wrote a blog about catcalling and it elicited a reaction from reader that I found interesting.

… I just don’t think it should be a woman’s job to pick her outfits to avoid being catcalled …

The main gist of the argument against me was that women shouldn’t be judged by their appearance but for their intelligence and personality. I suppose this is a fine sentiment but it is completely unrealistic. We are all judged by our appearance and even within that there are nuances. While we certainly don’t have much control over the size of our nose we do have control over the clothes we wear and the way we present ourselves.

If a woman wears a low-cut blouse and a push-up bra she is choosing to present herself in a certain way and men are going to react in a certain way. There is no denying this fact. It’s like saying someone who goes to a funeral in ripped jeans and a t-shirt shouldn’t be considered rude and treated as such. The same goes if a bridesmaid arrives not in the dress the bride chose but in something completely different.

I’m certainly not suggesting that a woman is asking to be harassed by men yelling out crude comments but the reality is that men are encouraged to approach women and engage them in dialog. It’s not an easy line to define to be certain. The original article I wrote concerned a woman who found herself continually shouted out on her way to work while wearing a business outfit. There are plenty of men who catcall in an unwanted fashion and the woman did nothing to provoke such behavior. My point is that it’s unreasonable to expect all men to avoid saying something to a woman because it’s possible that woman might consider such an advance unwanted. If a woman attends a party and a fellow she isn’t interested in approaches her, she rebuffs him, but at the same event encourages a man she does find intriguing. How is the man supposed to know ahead of time whether he will be found acceptable or not?

Even that’s not really my point in this blog. We are judged by our appearance and to do so is completely human. We judge people by their appearance every day. It’s in our nature. A woman who wears certain types of clothes will be judged for wearing them. A man who wears certain types of clothes will also be judged for it. It’s certainly not the most accurate way to judge a person but it has value. Someone who dresses in a certain way is consciously presenting themselves in that fashion. It is fundamentally different from a large nose or big breasts. These are things we cannot easily control. Our dress speaks directly to conscious decisions we have made and it is therefore reasonable for people to judge us based on our clothes.

Don’t get me wrong. I think aggressive catcalling when it is apparent the woman isn’t interested in inexcusable. However, if a woman is looking particularly nice it’s not unreasonable for a man to offer a compliment or two.

It is a woman’s job to dress appropriately and be aware that her clothes will illicit certain responses. To pretend otherwise is to simply live in a fantasy world. It’s also the man’s job to be aware of signals when a woman is receptive and when she is not. It is certainly all of our jobs to communicate effectively when people around us are behaving in ways we don’t like. Even then we can’t control their reactions completely.

When I’m at the football game and a fan is behaving boorishly I can sit there and take it or I can say something. Once I’ve said something the situation is largely out of my hands. If the fan continues to act horribly I can escalate by bringing in authority figures or I can simply accept their behavior and attempt to ignore it. Life is rather messy in this way. If a man is catcalling a woman she can ask him to stop, tell him to stop, but she largely can’t make him stop. If he wants to continue he can, it’s rude, nasty, boorish, and just plain mean, but that’s life.

Dress how you will, but don’t pretend it will not illicit certain reactions, whether or not those reactions meet with your approval. Fair? No. Life? Yes.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Purchase The Broken Throne today!
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